Light to Live By

"The unfolding of your words gives light ..." (Psalm 119:130a)

Month: December 2014

Resolutions and Real Change

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It’s that time when many are making resolutions for the New Year. I’m not going to advocate for them; nor will I campaign against them. I’m simply observing. Lots of people talk about them. I’m not so sure how many make them. But I have a general idea how many actually keep them.

Frankly, all the talk of New Year’s Resolutions has become so common and the outcome so predictable that, at least for me, they seem rather like a confession waiting to happen: “No, I didn’t keep my resolutions … again.” That will probably happen somewhere between January 2 and the 15th of the month. It sounds too much like a recipe for discouragement down the road and not enough like real change in the present.

But then I looked into the history and development of the word itself. It seems to have arisen from either an Old French word back in the late 14th century (which meant “a breaking into parts”) or a Latin term (which described “the process of reducing things into simpler forms”).

Hey, that’s not a bad idea! Confusion is of the devil. God is all about “the simplicity … of devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3).

The Latin term arose from a term meaning “to loosen.” A lot of our problems look like knots pulled tight to the point of hopelessness. What if we were able to pick away at them consistently until things started to loosen up and the individual parts that make up our challenges became more obvious? Breaking down our challenges into smaller, more easily tackled, parts seems the path of wisdom.

Later, in the 1500’s the word started being used to describe the solving of mathematical problems.

Now I’m starting to not like this word so much again!

But, then, there was that story not long ago about the German, teenage high school student who solved a 300 year old math problem that had first been proposed by Sir Isaac Newton. Think about that! For thirty decades the brightest minds on the planet played with this conundrum and couldn’t make heads or tails of it. But then, suddenly one high school student saw it!

Could God help me see my challenges in a different light?

Yes, if you ask Him. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5).

So rather than making a bunch of resolutions here’s what I’d suggest. How about just identifying one important area where you desire to see change. Then …

  • Specifically, directly and prayerfully submit the whole thing to God.
  • Ask God for wisdom to see the parts that contribute to and make the problem more powerful than it has to be. Call upon Him for the discernment to see which parts of the problem are most easily conquered. Cry out for the sight to identify the portions that are most strategically important in becoming successful in the whole matter.
  • Invite a godly friend into the equation. Explain what you’re dealing with. Invite them to pray with you over this. Ask for and listen to their observations about your situation. Maybe they’ll see things in a light you don’t as yet.
  • Then, submit everything to God again, this time the whole problem along with your new understanding of the parts that make it up.
  • Then ask God for the grace to begin to tackle just a one or two of those parts you’ve come to see in new light. Deal with the simpler parts first. Do something that gives you a taste of the victory you desire over the whole issue.
  • Trust God for the grace to take the individual steps along the way so that you can rejoice with Him at each stage and eventually in the final victory.

It wasn’t until the 1780’s that the idea of making New Year’s Resolutions showed up. And for over 200 years generation after generation has been trying, wishing, longing for change. But too often it proves illusive.

I’m after real change and I think you are too. None of us wants to set ourselves up for failure … again. Who needs that! The human will, unaided by the grace of God, is incapable of improvement of a kind or to a degree that is sufficient to fully please either God or ourselves. But the life surrendered fully to God through Jesus Christ, indwelt by the Holy Spirit and resolute on obedience has potential we’ve not yet imagined. Let’s go after more of that in 2015.

The Scribe Who Must Be Right

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If you have a few minutes I invite you to read my 2014 Christmas short story: The Scribe Who Must Be Right. Merry Christmas!

The Most Blessed Christmas

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“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” (Acts 20:35)

With these words Jesus shared the ingredient that would make for our best Christmas ever. But have you ever thought about it all from the vantage point of the members of the divine Trinity? What was the first Christmas like for them?

I offer these four messages for your reflection during this Advent season.

The Father’s Most Blessed Christmas. (John 3:16; Galatians 4:4-5) mp3

The Spirit’s Most Blessed Christmas. (selected Scriptures) mp3

The Son’s Most Blessed Christmas. (Philippians 2:5-11) mp3

Our Most Blessed Christmas. (Acts 20:35) mp3

Update: Next Book

We are in the editing stage of Life as Worship: When Reverence Defines Reality. I appreciate your prayers as final honing of the text takes place in the collaborative labors of the editor and myself. CLC Publications will publish the book (www.clcpublications.com). We are looking at a release in the spring of 2015.

Here are a few of the endorsements that have come in thus far:

John Kitchen’s Life as Worship is an outstanding exposition of the Psalms of Asaph. In addition to giving us very able and wise instruction from these biblical songs, Kitchen also writes so excellently, consistently keeping the Scriptural text in our main view. His judicious use of contemporary illustrations within these chapters also gives us a vivid picture of how to practically apply God’s eternal truths to our lives. I have been a longtime reader of John Kitchen’s writing ministry, including his masterful treatment of Davidic Psalms entitled, Praying Through, and now this latest exposition of Asaph’s Psalms is surely its worthy companion volume. I pray that Life as Worship gains a wide reading, for not only those preachers who will teach the Psalms, but also for a myriad of growing Christians who seek to read them for their own good and the glory of God.

Lance Quinn
Pastor, Grace Advance
Grace Community Church
Sun Valley, California

I read everything that Dr. John Kitchen writes. He is a pastor-scholar who understands the delicate balance between information and transformation. Life as Worship continues Kitchen’s legacy. After reading this outstanding book, my mind, heart, and feet were motivated to worship the Lord with renewed abandon. Expect to be changed as you read!

Keith R. Krell, PhD
Senior Pastor, Fourth Memorial Church, Spokane, WA
Associate Professor of Biblical Exposition Moody Bible Institute- Spokane

Here is a book that will go a long way toward solving the real worship war, the war that rages in your own heart. What is worship? How much effort should I invest in worship? When should I worship? And what does real worship look like? Taking his cue from the Psalms, God’s own “Order of Worship,” John Kitchen confronts us with the reality that all of life is worship and can only be properly stewarded with that understanding.

Tom Elliff, former President of the  Southern Baptist Convention and their International Mission Board

Many books have been written about worship. Worship is trendy now and everyone has a different take on it. Worship can become about getting on a hamster wheel of trying to keep up with the top 10 worship songs of the month, getting the highest tech audio/visual equipment and having great sounding bands or it can be about nostalgia and keeping things traditional. It can be about depth and deep meaning or it can become about ambiance and mood setting. It can divide generations and ethnic groups or it can bring us together. In the midst of so much distraction around “worship,” John Kitchen has managed to write a powerful, unique and insightful book on worship by exegeting the Psalms of Asaph. It isn’t a worship book about music or styles or trends. Instead, through an interesting and well-written analysis of the life and Psalms of this great worship leader, John manages to go deep into what the term “leading a lifestyle of worship” really looks like. Through joy, sorrow, questioning, listening, gratitude and several other approaches, we see how, when worship becomes what we are about, it can swell up out of our daily lives continually – not just when we are singing worship songs with our congregation – but in every circumstance. Go deeper than a focus on songs and styles and trends, and let this well-written book help you make your life all about worship. You’ll be blessed and through you, so will God.

Dan Adler, Heart of the City Ministries, Minneapolis, MN

Life as Worship is a refreshing look at how worship is not just something that we do, but it really is our entire life. The book takes the reader on a journey that deepens their understanding of worship and then challenges them to take time to develop a deeper life of worship with practical application. You will not want to just read through it quickly because there is such depth to be explored here!

Rev. Derek Mansker Bethany Alliance Church, Fennimore, WI

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